Instagrammably Visual: The Impact of Social Media Logos on Aesthetically-driven Consumption


Instagrammably Visual: The Impact of Social Media Logos on Aesthetically-driven Consumption

In this paper, I explore the impact of visual logos of social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Instagram) in marketing communications of independent brands, as this has become a common marketing strategy in diverse consumption contexts: printed on a website, a flyer, or a restaurant menu. Drawing on the literatures of visual logos, sensory transferability, and impression management, I hypothesize that exposure to such social media logos would induce a public mindset, whereby consumers attend to how others view them and, thus, are motivated to manage their public impressions. As a consequence, I argue that exposure to such logos is likely to make consumers prioritize visual (aesthetic) qualities when making purchase decisions, since visual qualities, relative to other sensory qualities (e.g., gustatory, olfactory), are more easily transferable via online platforms, without direct contact with the tangible objects. Across a series of studies, I find evidence that consumers indeed tend to choose more visually superior (vs. olfactorily- or gustatorily superior) products (e.g., food, flower bouquet) in the presence of social media logos, but not in the presence of other logos (e.g., a company’s logo). Additionally, I also discover that this main effect is greater for heavier social media users, but does not emerge among those who rarely use social media platforms. Lastly, I find that the effect of social media logos on prioritization of visual qualities disappears when the consumption context is exclusively private (vs. public), such as when buying a dinner only for oneself. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that exposure to visual logos of social media platforms embedded in daily sources of marketing may increase consumers’ choices for aesthetically appealing products because of the public mindset, and, thereby, theoretically contribute to the literatures on social media, visual logos, aesthetics, and self-presentation. This paper also has important practical implications for managers dealing with marketing communications.